Travel Booking Vendors to Merge

SAN FRANCISCO (04/03/2000) - Two leading software manufacturers for travel booking systems announced their plans to merge today, marking what could become a major shift toward open access in the computer reservations system (CRS) industry.

Datalex in Dublin and Sight & Sound Software in Portland, Oregon, will officially merge April 15 under the name Datalex Ltd. Between Datalex's Bookit booking engine and Sight & Sound's BookSmart system, the two organizations handle $1.5 billion in computerized reservations each year for Delta Air Lines Inc., American Airlines and Amtrak.

David White, Sight & Sound's vice president for marketing, said the two companies decided they stood to gain more as partners than adversaries. Datalex has been in the online travel business for 15 years and offers tour reservations systems, pricing engines and industry analysis, as well as its booking engine product.

Sight & Sound started as a multimedia software developer in 1994. Its flagship product - BookSmart - allows other travel Web sites to customize their look, choose between application servers and plug into all the major players in the CRS industry.

"If you look at the rest of e-commerce, open models are the rule," White said.

"In travel, they're the exception to the rule. We never looked to provide too many services. Our mission was to bring open access into the e-travel business."

With the new merger, Sight & Sound will act as the company's U.S. headquarters and research and development division. Datalex's Dublin operation will remain the international headquarters, with Datalex CEO Neil Wilson and President Jim Peters retaining their titles. Datalex's Atlanta base will serve as the company's U.S. sales center and customer relations hub.

The new company will support both the Bookit and BookSmart products for the immediate future.

"We are committed to maintaining compatibility and support for our current customers, while leveraging the best technology from BookSmart and Bookit," Wilson said. "We'll be forming a team of strategic planners and architects to plan for our next generation of products. In the meantime, the complementary products will coexist."

The merger will allow Datalex to wed its global presence to Sight & Sound's front-end software.

"The whole trick to sell travel online was to build an interface to those sites and put a customer-friendly face on it," White said. "We've had pretty good success with a more open configuration, and we think the future of this business is to build an architecture which will allow for global use instead of all these different proprietary systems."

The BookSmart model was created in developing the American Airlines site in June 1998. Air Canada/Canadian Airlines and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have also adopted that booking system. Even Aer Lingus Group PLC in Datalex's backyard set up its Web site with BookSmart.

The company expects to handle 40 percent of worldwide online air travel ticketing this year and to emphasize the BookSmart open architecture in future products.

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